Two babies are born. Two brothers. United and indivisible, sharing everything. Twins in all but blood. As Germany marches into its Nazi Armageddon, the ties of family, friendship and love are tested to the very limits of endurance. And the brothers are faced with an unimaginable choice....
Which one of them will survive? Ben Elton's most personal novel to date, Two Brothers transports the listener to the time of history's darkest hour.
©2012 Ben Elton (P)2012 Random House AudioGo
I'm a singing songwriting postie living in Yorkshire. Sometimes I like to be challenged by a book, and sometimes I just want to lose myself.
This is an astonishingly good book: wonderfully written, craftily crafted and beautifully brutal. Firstly, that whole interwar period of the 1920's and 30's (especially in Germany) has always been a bit of a black hole for me, as history lessons in school were dominated by the World Wars, but here Ben Elton brings the Weimar Republic to life, with its extremes of poverty, decadence, violence and jazz. Secondly, it's also always been incomprehensible to me how the German public allowed the 'Final Solution' to actually happen, but as Ben Elton beautifully lays out here, it was a long, gradual, poisoning process that the nascent Nazi party put at the heart of its insane manifesto, and they took their time: small, ‘reasonable’ steps - all for the good of the nation - to bring it to its horrific conclusion. So the historical setting of the story had me from the very start, and so did the characters.
The family at the centre of the novel are wonderfully real (and having the twins being born on the same day as the Nazi party was officially formed was a genius touch). The cast of characters in the book range across the spectrum of classes in society yet everyone is drawn naturally and believably; they’re mostly people just caught up in the gale of the world, getting by as best as they can - none more so than the 4 children whose story we follow most closely. And the city too is used to reflect the changes each new era brings about: it brightens and comes to life in the boom years, then ages and darkens as Hitler’s spells wear off.
The plot is perfectly structured; it gives hints of things to come, while at the same time teasing you with false trails and dead-ends; this was that rare book that made me literally laugh out loud and cry in public (especially embarrassing as I’m a postie, and was listening to this on audiobook …).
So, overall, an incredible book - and beautifully narrated too - that’s going to stay with me for many years to come - thoroughly recommended!
I would of loved to hear Ben Elton read the book as he has done with prevues titles, although, it is well read.
As for the book itself, impossible to hit the pause button on. I was up late, sneaking chapters in at work and generally looking for any excuse to plug in my headphones and be transported into the gripping lives of these wonderful characters that I have fallen in love with. I have not been so fully absorbed by a book for a long time. A fantastic experience, one I did not want to end and highly recommended.
I am a fan of Ben Elton and have read quite a bit of his stuff. I always find it hard to pick a book, always debating, will I enjoy this? So I went for another Ben Elton thinking, he doesn't let me down and he hasn't this time either. As always the writing is quality, easy to follow, engaging, witty, dark, emotive. To top it off the naration (nice job JOT!) is superb. His accents are great (no attempts at poor German accents), and the tone quality of his voice is amazing. This book is, well 5 OUT OF 5! A MUST HAVE
Loved this book totally gripping and Ben Elton writes with such detail. I loved the suspense of not knowing which brother was the narrator- very clever have recommended to everyone.
best ever book
Wolf, he was so nice and gentle. Cool jaz man
Audio always good you do not have to stop doing stuff. Well read and really took me into the story
To long to listen to in one sitting and in spite of the story I did not want it to end.
You will learn more about the Nazis than you will think possible as well as listening to a great stony with many interesting characters
Tell us about yourself!
This was a little disjointed at the begining until the characters became established.
But it is REALLY WORTH continuing. It is a completly different take from the normal on WW2 a different perspective without negating anything.
A very moving and uplifting novel in one
A truly brilliant novel by Ben Elton. I don't mean to be patronising when I say it but I didn't think Ben had it in hm to write a novel like this one. It is Ben Elton being serious. It describes the horrors of Nazi Germany through the lives of a Jewish couple, their two sons and their two female friends. It brings home the evil of the Nazis on a more personal level. I like the way the story is told in two different time periods in parallel. There are a number of twists relating to the true identity of certain individuals. One individual, in particular, shows her cunning and survival instincts. This is elevated into one of my favourite novels. Highly recommended.
This in my mind, is not one if his better ones. I have read quite a few, he writes a good thriller and a brilliant comedy (and is still my author of choice), however I found this fits in to neither category and for me the constant swopping of identities was a bit much. At the end I found it difficult to work out who was impersonating whom.
I am getting more and more impressed with Ben Elton. His last 3 books have been exceptional, and the writing is superb. This story is set in Berlin 1930 to 1945, with interludes set in 1950. It is about the experience of a Jewish family as Hitler comes power - very moving and graphic. In particular, it concentrates on the lives of twin boys born in 1920, and their diverse personalities. A great story.
Top! Best book I have ever listened to (or read) about Germany post WW1 through WW2. Having said that please don't think oh too depressing or heard it before. Yes of course this is about Jews and nazis hyperinflation etc etc, yes it will yank at your heart strings and you want to yell why? More than anything this is about a family and real people warts and all! It's a cracking read I can't stress enough to anyone thinking should I try this? Yes, it's not about people being gassed it's about a family
Yes I did cry in places I also laughed with them and I cared about them. The family who are German Jews were not shown as helpless people or really as Jews at the start, they were German people who all used different skills to improve the little they had.
I think this would be a far better book for older school children to read or listen to than a dry history book. I'm sure they would emotionally connect.
"Grim Grim Grim"
I certainly would. I'd say that Elton is in no sense a 'literary' artist but to get an idea of what it was like to be a Berlin Jew as the Nazis tightened the vice you could hardly do better than this.
It's absolutely gripping. I'm a historian and well acquainted with the period in Europe 1920-1940, and I've read many books about the rise of Fascism and the Holocaust. However, even the best historian has to deal in generalities. A good novelist/storyteller like Elton gives you the reality like what it really meant to be forced to lick the pavement by a gang of psychopathic SA thugs. There are many such moments in this book. Some of it reminded me of '1984' though in this case everything is factual & horribly realistic, made worse by Elton's gift for black humour, which he gives especially to Wolfgang. The book is very long but I didn't want it to end and I rationed my listening.
No, but he was perfect for the job. All the characters were perfectly distinguishable and well-realised.
Many such moments, but I admired the way Elton conveys the very common response of the Jews of Berlin that they simply couldn't believe that the plan of the Nazis was genocide from the start. Inevitably I reflected frequently how I would have reacted.
I found the 'love' scenes between Dagmar and the brothers a bit tiresome and the analysis of their feelings for the 'Jewish princess' repetitive. Actually some quite unnecessary repetition is a weakness of Elton's style. Occasionally the plot strains the reader's credulity (eg when Otto arrives at the burning house just as Dagmar is pushing up the window to escape) but this is not often.
They all were
Simply a terrific book to listen to. Jot brings the characters to life.
"THE BEST READ THIS YEAR"
This one I rank in my top 5 collection.
You cannot have one favourite character in this book. You get so attached to Paulus, Otto, Zilka and Dagmar.
his accents are brilliant wich helps you distinguish wich character is wich.
2 Brothers together while worlds fall apart.
I don't get emotional in books until I read this one. I find myself pondering over it for days. It really plucked at my emotional heart strings. Thank you for a great listen.
"as good as The First Casualty"
I find Ben's historic novels fascinating. This is well written as well as a great story (i was born in Germany but move away 30 years ago and therefore I could be a bit biased to the story).
The main characters might be a bit 1 dimensional but it seems to work for the story and you don't notice it unless one sits back to analyse the story (like when writing a review).
If you like his previous book about WW1 then you will love this one. If you have not read that just don't expect black adder and you will get a lot out of it
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